February 12, 2008 | By Richard Esguerra

Telecom Immunity Passes in Senate; Battle Lines Drawn for Conference Showdown

Despite the strong leadership of senators like Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold, the Senate passed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), failing to strip telecom immunity from a terrible surveillance bill. The Dodd-Feingold amendment to remove immunity from the FAA failed in a 31 to 67 vote (51 votes were needed), and the FAA passed 68 to 29.

Now, the Senate will need to negotiate with the House over differences between the FAA and the RESTORE Act, the House's own surveillance bill passed in November. The House's RESTORE Act, although far from perfect, provides for more congressional and judicial oversight of the Executive Branch's domestic spying than the FAA, and does not include immunity for the telephone companies. President Bush has threatened to veto any surveillance legislation that does not contain immunity, even as the Protect America Act's changes to surveillance law -- which the president has argued are critical to saving American lives -- are set to expire on February 15th.

The conference between the House in the Senate is the one, last chance to defeat the administration's outrageous push for telecom immunity, and the chambers are poised to complete the process by this weekend. Take action now to stiffen the spines of members in the House -- the rule of law must prevail! No immunity for lawbreaking telecoms!

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